Monday, December 28, 2015

On Recent Loss

My family and I have experienced a lot of loss lately. Most recently, just over the past Christmas weekend, we lost my grandma Nancy to a cancer which she’d been battling. Just a month before that my Aunt Stephanie passed away after being struck by a vehicle. A while before that Jarrad lost a cousin at a very young age, and just before Jarrad and I were married his grandmother, one of the kindest people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing, passed away unexpectedly after a stroke.

I haven’t spoken about this much; because I’m not very good at talking about death and loss, and also because it’s admittedly difficult for me to show signs of weakness or to express my emotions in most situations, but there are some things that I’d like to say – in particular about the two most recent losses of Nancy and my Aunt Stephanie, which are both weighing heavily on my family and me right now.

I want to start out by saying that the loss I am experiencing at the passing of my aunt and grandma must be nothing compared to the feelings of those in my family who were even closer to them both. My dad has lost his sister and mother, my grandpa his wife and daughter, and my cousin Aja her mother and her grandmother; and all in about a month’s time. I can’t begin to imagine what that must feel like. My feelings of sympathy and love for them are greater than my own sense of loss.

My Aunt Stephanie was one of the most accepting people I’ve known. She had a contagious laugh. She kept smiling right up until the end. Even when dealing with multiple health issues she stayed optimistic and happy when she could. She was among the first people in my family to reach out to me when she found out that I am gay and tell me she loves me regardless and would support me. Since then she would ask about Jarrad, wish him Merry Christmas, and make him feel like part of the family. She kept in touch and made sure we knew that she loved us and was thinking about us. I stayed connected to her and in touch with her more than most of my other extended family.

I regret not staying in touch more. I regret not having more of a chance to see her when she was still alive and not letting her know how important she is to me. And I regret crying the last time I did get a chance to speak with her when she was on the phone – sounding like a blubbering fool when I was saying goodbye – or at least that’s how it seemed to me. I wish I could have said something else, or something to help her feel better.

Aunt Stephanie

Nancy is for all intents and purposes my grandma on my father’s side.  I call her Nancy as she was not a blood relative, but was married to my grandpa when I was young. Alongside my grandpa, my dad, and my stepmom Debbie she helped me grow up. For a while, when I was staying with my dad, I lived with them all in the same house. I remember a lot of the little things she’d say to me when I was growing up. Recently it was mentioned by my dad in a Facebook post that she would say “I’m going to kick you to the moon,” whenever her kids or grandkids were misbehaving, which brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. I fondly remember asking her to try and have various foods and her response being, “Oh I like it, but it doesn’t like me,” as a reason for her to abstain. She was always kind, and stubborn, and she loved me and I loved her back. I’m glad I got a chance to see her and give her a hug at my sister’s wedding a couple of weeks ago. And I’m glad I got a chance to talk to her on Christmas, the day before she passed.

My grandma Nancy

I feel a little out of place when grieving alongside the rest of my family. My family on the Pipoly side are mostly religious – mostly Christian, and when they grieve they use their faith to comfort them. My beliefs don’t give room for that, however, and while I envy and support them, I’m unable to change my beliefs just because doing so would provide me added comfort. My mind just isn’t wired that way. So instead I have to figure out how to grieve in my own way.

I’ve been fortunate up to this point to not have lost any close family members, so this is all new to me, and it brings up questions about the future and about my life and it’s a bit scary. Am I getting to the age now where I’m going to start seeing more and more family members die? How soon? How am I going to be able to deal with that? How frequently? How many trips in the next two years are going to be to attend funerals? Honestly, right now I have no idea. Death is a part of life, but I don’t really have any experience with nor do I know how to handle it. I’m also getting to that age where I’m realizing just how fast time passes when you’re looking back at it. You can be looking forward to something… and it seems like it will take forever to get there, and then suddenly you’re looking back at it, and at everything else, and it’s like it all took place in a second. That realization brings up other questions and concerns which this isn’t the place for.

I want to wrap this up by summarizing what the true intention of this post is. I wanted to express my memories of Aunt Stephanie and Nancy – reiterate how much I love both of them, and share that they’ve had a very positive impact on my life and that I will never stop thinking about them. I want to share just how much I love my family and let them know that I’m here to support them as they go through this difficult time. And I wanted to share some of my feelings, both to help sort them out in my own head, and also in case anybody out there is curious about how I’m dealing with things but doesn’t want to ask.

I love you Aunt Stephanie and I love you Nancy. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me and for being a part of my life.